A legal challenge against the use of automatic facial recognition technology by police has been launched by a civil liberties group. Automatic Facial Recognition uses CCTV or surveillance cameras to record and compare facial characteristics with images on police databases. Lawyers for Big Brother Watch argue the use of AFR breaches the rights of individuals under the Human Rights Act. The Metropolitan Police says the technology will help keep London safe. The system is being piloted in London, with three other forces - Humberside, South Wales, and Leicestershire - also trialling the technology.
The accuracy of police facial recognition systems has been criticised by a UK privacy group. Two forces have been testing facial recognition cameras at public events in an effort to catch wanted criminals. Big Brother Watch said its investigation showed the technology was "dangerous and inaccurate" as it had wrongly flagged up a "staggering" number of innocent people as suspects. But police have defended its use and say additional safeguards are in place. Police facial recognition cameras have been trialled at events such as football matches, festivals and parades.
Facial recognition technology used by the UK police is making thousands of mistakes - and now there could be legal repercussions. Civil liberties group, Big Brother Watch, has teamed up with Baroness Jenny Jones to ask the government and the Met to stop using the technology. They claim the use of facial recognition has proven to be'dangerously authoritarian', inaccurate and a breach if rights protecting privacy and freedom of expression. If their request is rejected, the group says it will take the case to court in what will be the first legal challenge of its kind. South Wales Police, London's Met and Leicestershire are all trialling automated facial recognition systems in public places to identify wanted criminals.
How would you feel being watched, tracked and identified by facial recognition cameras everywhere you go? Facial recognition cameras are now creeping onto the streets of Britain and the U.S., yet most people aren't even aware. As we walk around, our faces could be scanned and subjected to a digital police line up we don't even know about. There are over 6 million surveillance cameras in the U.K. – more per citizen than any other country in the world, except China. In the U.K., biometric photos are taken and stored of people whose faces match with criminals – even if the match is incorrect. As director of the U.K. civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, I have been investigating the U.K. police's "trials" of live facial recognition surveillance for several years.
When Wales takes on Ireland in the Six Nations rugby championship Saturday, Big Brother will be watching. Fans filing into the stadium in Cardiff will be scanned with facial recognition software as part of a police trial of the technology. Should any of their faces match a database of potential suspects, officers will be standing by, ready to swoop. It's the kind of indiscriminate mass surveillance that would be expected, in ordinary times, to be the subject of fierce debate in the U.K., as journalists and politicians fought over the proper balance between privacy and security. Instead, trial runs like the one in South Wales are taking place largely unchallenged by parliament.